Cradle to Grave

Orange and brown is the new black, if the current TV schedules are anything to go by. In the bell-bottomed slipstream of Lenny Henry's Danny and the Human Zoo comes this breezy, hugely likeable adaptation of Danny Baker's ebullient memoir Going to Sea in a Seive. (And there's more to come, with comedian Emma Kennedy's account of her 70s adolescence also headed to BBC2.)

Bermondsy boy Baker's teenage years were characterised by a burning desire to be different; to break away from the strict confines of his working class roots and be 'in with the in crowd' - long hair, ludicrous peacock fashions and all.

This brought him into regular conflict with his dad 'Spud' - the sort of man who would cheerfully threaten to kill his daughter's latest suitor for being degenerate enough to wear plimsolls. 'Take that off your 'ead,' he said, swiping a Lennon-style Breton cap from his son, 'and give it to your mother so she can dry up with it.'

When he wasn't on the fiddle down the docks, Spud was an 'importer-exporter' in the Del Boy mode, at one point filling the the Baker's modest maisonette with so many continental quilts, they couldn't find the dog for days.

Spud is the beating heart of Cradle to Grave (Baker clearly adored him), and casting Peter Kay is the series' masterstroke. At first, it's disorientating to hear Bolton's favourite son talking in a gorblimey cockney accent, but he effortlessly makes the role his own, without sacrificing any of Baker's voice.

Though it fizzes with hormonal energy (and you might be surprised how good looking DB was back in the day), there are bittersweet moments, too. 'The nearest thing we had to a youth centre was a creepy street of abandoned houses sinking into the Rotherhithe mud,' says the young Baker (Laurie Kynaston). Shortly afterwards, a friend is killed falling through the rotten floorboards - a tragedy made all the more painful for one of the gang when the victim is buried in his borrowed turquoise and gold Tonic trousers.

That might seem cold, but this stuff matters when you're 15. And they were very nice trousers. So nice, in fact, even Spud might have thought twice before giving them to the missus to dry up with.

TV extra:

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Did we really need another version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover? Perhaps not, but I was still excited by the prospect of 90 minutes in the company of one of our greatest writers.

No, not DH Lawrence – though he had his moments, I suppose – but Jed Mercurio, the genius behind Line of Duty and Bodies, who wrote and directed this adaptation.

Sadly, with its soft-focus sex and cleaned-up language, Mercurio’s take felt strangely gutless. Would I have wished my servants to watch it? I’d probably have lent them my Line of Duty DVD instead.

 

Blitz Cities

How best to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Blitz? By getting Myleene Klass to follow the path of the Luftwaffe when it bombed Norwich, of course. Obvious when you think about it.

One of a week-long series examining the impact of German bombing raids on different British cities, this instalment revealed, among other things, that Myleene owes her musical education to her piano teacher's experiences during the Second World War. Which means that, among Hitler's many other atrocities, we might also add responsibility for Hear'Say.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, September 10, 2015

(c) Waitrose Weekend